FOREST LAKE, Minn. (AP) – Minnesota’s wildfire specialists are mourning the deaths of 19 members of an elite firefighting crew in Arizona.
Bob Quady, a forester with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, says it’s very sad for the tight-knit family fraternity, which numbers more than 500 Minnesotans who might be called at any time to fight wildfires across the United States.
The 19 died in their portable emergency fire shelters, which Quady says firefighters use only as a last resort.
Ron Stoffel, the DNR’s wildfire suppression supervisor in Grand Rapids, says he can only imagine what the “hot shots” went through as the fire overtook them.
Five DNR employees on a helicopter crew are helping to battle the Arizona wildfire. Another 20 Minnesotans are in New Mexico, awaiting firefighting assignments.